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More Culligan City of Palms Classic alums selected by NBA teams

June 26, 2019
By CJ HADDAD ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

The Culligan City of Palms Classic boasts itself as the best high school basketball tournament in the country.

The 2019 NBA Draft last week at the Barclays Center in New York showed once again that the road to the association goes through the City of Palms, as seven tournament alumnus walked across the stage and shook Commissioner Adam Silver's hand while wearing the hat of their new franchise -- including three top 10 picks.

"If you want to see tomorrow's NBA stars today, there's no better place to go than the Culligan City of Palms Classic," said John Naylor, the tournament's executive director, in a statement. "The amount of talent that comes through here year after year is simply remarkable."

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Culligan City of Palms Classic logo

It didn't take long for a player with City of Palms ties to hear his name called, as Duke's RJ Barrett, who was chosen No. 3 overall by the New York Knicks, played in the tournament in 2015 and 2016 with Montverde Academy (Fla.).

"I've given this game all I've got for a long time and I'm just ready for this. I want to embrace the city and embrace the team and everything. I'm ready to go," Barrett told ESPN's Maria Taylor moments after being drafted.

Barrett was part of the 2016 Montverde team that won the City of Palms Classic with a 3-0 record in tournament play.

The 6-foot-7 Toronto native just turned 19 earlier this month, and played one season under Coach Mike Krzyzewski at Duke.

His ties to "The Six" -- a nickname given to the city of Toronto by the hip-hop world -- has earned him the nickname, "The Maple Mamba."

"It just means representing Canada and my Kobe mentality -- just that competitive mentality. So, everything all together, you get the Maple Mamba," Barrett said as part of the interview with Taylor.

Barrett's father, Rowan, a retired Canadian professional basketball player and current general manager of the Canadian men's national team, was in New York to share the moment with his son.

An emotional Rowan told his son he was proud of him as the two embraced.

Just two picks later, another City of Palms alum was chosen.

With the fifth overall selection in the 2019 NBA Draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers selected point guard Darius Garland out of Vanderbilt.

Garland also played in the 2016 edition of the tournament with Brentwood Academy (Tenn.).

Garland was touted as the best player to ever sign with the Commodores, and was the only freshman in the Southeastern Conference to make the preseason all-conference team.

A November game against Kent State saw Garland leave early with a knee injury suffered on a layup. Vanderbilt head coach Bryce Drew announced a few days later that Garland would miss the remainder of the season with a meniscus injury.

Despite missing most of his rookie season, Garland focused on preparing for the NBA draft and was invited to take part in the draft combine.

Taylor asked Garland what can people expect of him, as his injury kept him off television screens, as well as the court.

"Young point guard. Play maker. Get his teammates involved but like to score as well," Garland said when asked who he was. "So, I like to win. I'm a competitor. So, I'm ready to get to Cleveland"

The hardest part of coming off an injury?

"Just to stay patient. That was (the) hardest part," Garland told Taylor.

A City of Palms talent rounded out the Top 10 as Cam Reddish -- Barrett and No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson's teammate at Duke -- was taken by the Atlanta Hawks at No. 10.

"It's blessing. I'm super excited and I'm ready to get to work," Reddish told Taylor following his selection.

Reddish played in the City of Palms in 2015 and 2016 as a member of Westtown School (Pa.).

The 6-foot-7 strong forward also played just one year at Duke and is ready to make his mark at the next level.

Taylor asked Reddish what Atlanta Hawks and NBA fans can expect to see from the McDonald's All-American, as he goes to a team that was recognized as having one of, if not the strongest 2019 draft.

"High character guy coming in," Reddish told Taylor. "I'm going to bring a ton of energy. Great work ethic. I'm really just super excited. I can't wait to get there."

Though his talent is clearly top tier, Reddish may have been a bit overshadowed at Duke with the polarizing Williamson and all-around stud Barrett being the No. 1 and 2 ranked players by ESPN in the 2019 class.

Reddish, amazingly enough for Duke, was ranked No. 3, as Coach K secured the top three talents coming out of high school this past season. Duke was a No. 1 seed in this year's NCAA tournament east bracket, and lost to No. 2 Michigan State in the Elite Eight.

Other draftees that played on the City of Palms hardwood before hearing their name called include:

Nickeil Alexander-Walker, SG/PG, Virginia Tech, sophomore, drafted 17th overall by New Orleans. He played for Hamilton Heights Christian Academy (Tenn.) in 2015 as part of the City of Palms.

Nassir Little, SF, North Carolina, freshman, drafted 25th overall by the Portland Trailblazers. Little played for Orlando Christian Prep in 2017 as part of the City of Palms.

Bruno Fernando, PF, Maryland, sophomore, drafted 34th overall by the Atlanta Hawks. Played with Montverde Academy in 2015 as part of the City of Palms.

Talen Horton-Tucker, SG, Iowa State, freshman, drafted 46th overall by the Los Angeles Lakers. Played with Simeon Career Academy (Ill.) in 2017 as part of the City of Palms.

This year's numbers are down from the past two seasons. In 2018, 12 City of Palms alum were chosen in the draft -- including No.1 selection Deandre Ayton. In 2017, 11 City of Palms players were chosen -- most notably No. 2 and 3 overall picks respectively, Lonzo Ball and Jayson Tatum. The 2016 No.1 overall pick, Ben Simmons, is also a City of Palms alumnus.

Since the tournament began in 1973, more than 530 players have gone on to play NCAA Division I basketball.

Over 140 players from the tournament have eventually worn an NBA uniform, including Tyreke Evans, John Wall, Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving Joel Embiid, LaMarcus Aldridge and Andrew Wiggins.

You also won't be surprised to find top tier coaches frequenting games, which are played at Suncoast Credit Union Arena at Florida SouthWestern State College, such as Roy Williams, Coach K and John Calipari.

The City of Palms Classic 2019 edition tips off on Dec. 18.

Visit for more information.

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj



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